Malaysia's prime minister has defended the police for not revealing the identity of a woman whose naked video in police custody sparked a protest from China. The woman initially was believed to be a Chinese national or an ethnic Chinese Malaysian, based on her appearance in the video images that showed her being forced to strip and perform squats in front of a female officer in a police lockup.
But a 22-year-old Malay Muslim who testified at a government-backed inquiry last week claimed she was the woman. Police have confirmed that she was the victim.
"Who could have revealed the identity earlier? The police? Do you think people would have believed them?" Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters late Sunday. "People would have accused them of a cover up."
He dismissed suggestions the issue could have been prevented from being blown of out of proportion if the woman's nationality was made public earlier, saying the situation could instead have become more chaotic.
China's government formally protested and urged action after the video was made public by a Malaysian opposition lawmaker who received it from an anonymous source last month.
Home Minister Azmi Khalid, who visited Beijing earlier this month for talks with tourism and foreign ministry officials, said Monday that Malaysia values its strong ties with China and wants to dispel any negative perceptions about how Chinese visitors are treated.
"My visit reflects Malaysia's sincerity in preserving harmonious bilateral relations, which should be viewed through a deeper perspective, not just based on this video clip issue," Azmi said in a statement.
The footage, shot secretly using a camera phone, also triggered concerns that police routinely mistreat detainees and unfairly target Chinese, who comprise Malaysia's main ethnic minority community, reports the AP. I.L.